MA Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies


Program Description

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or part-time

This programme is perfect if you wish to pursue a career in the museum, heritage and arts sectors with a focus on non-Western art and culture, and both tangible and intangible heritage.

It will also suit practising museum and heritage professionals who are interested in strengthening their knowledge of contemporary debates in critical museology, critical heritage studies and material culture studies. With its interdisciplinary focus, it will suit students interested in broadening their expertise across anthropology, art history and archaeology. Additionally, it provides an excellent postgraduate foundation for students interested in pursuing PhD research concerned with museums, heritage, and material/visual culture in Asian, African, Middle Eastern and transnational/transcultural contexts.

Why study MA Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies

This interdisciplinary programme brings together anthropological, art historical and archaeological perspectives to explore the interconnecting fields of museums, heritage and material culture studies. The MA deprivileges Western museum and heritage discourses and practices and explores tangible and intangible cultural heritage as spheres of global interaction.

The MA will equip students with a theoretically-informed critical understanding of museums, heritage and material/visual culture. Taught across the Department of Anthropology and School of Arts, the MA provides a unique opportunity to learn about current debates in World Art and World Heritage, combining ethnographic, art historical and archaeological approaches.

Students will be introduced to a wide range of thematic and theoretical issues and will have the opportunity to curate a small exhibition in the Curating Cultures module, and put into practice anthropological research techniques in the Ethnographic Research Methods course.

Situated in London’s ‘Museum Mile’, a few hundred meters from the British Museum, and with its own Brunei Gallery, SOAS provides a unique environment in which to study the cultural heritage of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.


A Masters in Museums, Heritage and Material Cultural Studies helps you to understand the world, other peoples’ ways of life and how society is organised.

This programme will endow you with a specialist understanding of producers, audiences, and other cultural and social aspects of mass media. Over the years the SOAS department has trained numerous leading anthropologists who have gone on to occupy lectureships and professorships throughout the world. Equally, students gain skills during their degree that transfer well to areas such as information and technology, government service, the media and tourism.

Postgraduate students leave SOAS with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek, including analytical and critical skills; ability to gather, assess and interpret data; high level of cultural awareness; and problem-solving.

A postgraduate degree is a valuable experience that provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.


Occasionally the availability of optional modules changes as a result of staffing and other circumstances. Students who had signed up for such modules will be notified as soon as possible and given the opportunity to choose from available alternatives.

The programme consists of 180 credits in total: 120 credits of modules and a dissertation of 10,000 words at 60 credits.

All students are expected to take the core and compulsory modules listed below.

Students are advised to take one or both of the recommended modules listed below or may wish to select from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology or the School of Arts (Departments of Centre for Media Studies, History of Art and Archaeology or Music) options lists.

The remaining credits can be selected from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology list or the School of Arts options.


Students must complete a Dissertation (10,000 words).

  • Dissertation in Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies

Taught Component

Core Module

  • Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies

Compulsory Modules

  • Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology
  • Theory and Method in Art History


Choose a module(s) from Postgraduate Open Options to the value of 15 credits, or from the list of options below to the value of 15 credits.


Choose the two recommended modules below:

  • Curating Cultures Cohort B
  • Ethnographic Research Methods


Choose one of these modules and a 15-credit module from the Anthropology and Sociology list or a 15-credit module from the School of Arts list below.


30 credits worth of modules from the Anthropology and Sociology list and/or from the School of Arts list below.

List of Modules (subject to availability)

Anthropology and Sociology

  • African and Asian Diasporas in the Modern World
  • Anthropology of Globalisation (PG)
  • Anthropology of Human Rights (PG)
  • Anthropology of Law
  • Issues in Anthropology of Media
  • Culture and Society of China
  • Culture and Society of East Africa
  • Culture and Society of Japan
  • Culture and Society of South Asia
  • Culture and Society of South East Asia
  • Culture and Society of Near and Middle East
  • Culture and Society of West Africa
  • Issues in Anthropology and Film
  • Issues in the Anthropology of Gender
  • Media Production Skills (Group B)
  • Perspectives On Development
  • Religions on the move: New Currents and Emerging Trends in Global Religion
  • Therapy and Culture
  • Tourism and Travel: A Global Perspective

School of Arts

  • Discourses on Modern and Contemporary Art of the Middle East
  • The Silk Road and its Origins: Art and Archaeology
  • China and the Silk Road: Art and Archaeology
  • Modern and Contemporary Korean Art
  • Arts of Koryo and Chosen Korea
  • Buddhist and Hindu Art of the Maritime Silk Route
  • Arts of Modern and Contemporary China (since 1800)
  • Arab Painting
  • Persian Painting
  • Visual Arts of Dynastic China (to 1800) (Cohort A)
  • Modern and Contemporary Arts in Africa
  • Ceramics in Chinese Culture: 10th - 18th Centuries
  • Representing Conflict: A Cross-Cultural and Inter-Disciplinary Approach
  • Art and Architecture of the Fatimids
  • Islam and the West: Artistic and Cultural Contacts
  • Popular Practice in the Edo Period Arts
  • Shogunal Iconography in the Edo Period
  • Contemporary Art and the Global
  • (En)gendering Southeast Asia: Aesthetics and Politics of Sexual Difference
  • Issues in Contemporary Southeast Asian Art
  • Photography and the Image in Africa
  • Islamic Art and Architecture of Eastern Mediterranean of the Period of the Crusades (11th-14th centuries)
  • Imag(in)ing Buddhahood in South Asia (1)
  • The Figure of the Buddha: Theory, Practice and the Making of Buddhist Art History
  • Tibetan Buddhist Monuments in Context
  • Critical Themes in Tibetan Art
  • Illustrated Manuscript Cultures of Southeast Asia
  • Monuments and sculpture of Angkor
  • Art and Architecture of the Seljuks and Ottomans (12th -15th centuries)
  • Collecting and Curating Buddhist Art in the Museum
  • Arts of the Tamil Temple
  • Visuality and Islamic Art
  • Chinese Porcelain: Trade, Transfer and Reception
  • Architectural Boundaries and the Body
  • Studies in Global Digital Cultures
  • Media Spectacle and Urban Space in East Asia
  • Digital traditional broadcasting communication
  • Studies in Media, Information Communication Technologies and Development
  • International Political Communication
  • Theoretical and Contemporary Issues in Global Media and Post-National Communication
  • Theoretical Approaches to International Journalisms
  • Theoretical Issues in Media and Cultural Studies
  • Transnational Communities and Diasporic Media: Networking, Connectivity, Identity
  • Mediated Culture in the Middle East: Politics and Communications
  • Topics in Global Digital Cultures
  • Indian vocal music: Styles and histories
  • Analytical Approaches to the Global Creative and Cultural Industries
  • Music, Urbanism and Conflict in Jaffa
  • Sacred Sound in South Asia
  • Aspects of Music and Religion in South East Asia
  • Musical Traditions of East Asia (Masters)
  • Music, Place and Politics in Cuba
  • Pop and Politics in East Asia (Masters)
  • Klezmer Music: Roots and Revival
  • Gender and Music (MMus)
  • Analysing World Music: Transcription & Analysis in Ethnomusicology
  • The Music Business (Masters)
  • Ethnicity, Religion and Gender in Middle Eastern Musical cultures

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session.

Admissions and Applications

You can apply for this course via the online application form.

We aim to assess a complete application and provide a decision within a 5-week time frame. Overseas students who require a Tier 4 visa and wish to join SOAS should bear in mind visa applications can take several weeks, so you should apply as soon as possible.

Consideration of Application

The whole application, including transcript and references, is considered before a decision is reached. You are therefore advised to submit a complete application including references and transcript (where required). An incomplete application will add considerable delays to the decision-making process.

Students will receive an acknowledgement of their application. Each application is carefully considered and although we try and respond as quickly as possible, we do ask that students should expect to receive a response within five weeks of receipt.

Candidates who are available in the United Kingdom may be called for an interview. The absence of academic members of staff (or instance on study leave) may affect the timing of decisions.

Entry Requirements

Candidates must normally possess a first or upper second class honours degree or equivalent. (E.g. an equivalent bachelors degree from a good US university would have a GPA of 3.3 or above). The programme is interdisciplinary in nature so it is not necessary to have a degree in a discipline directly related to the programme. Each application is assessed on its individual merits and entry requirements may be modified in the light of relevant professional experience, and where the applicant can show a practical commitment to their field of study. Candidates must also be able to provide two supporting references.

English Language Entry Requirements

You must be able to show that your English is of a high enough standard to successfully engage with and complete your course at SOAS. Please note that we take our English language requirements seriously and failure to meet them exactly may well result in your application to SOAS being rejected. It is not possible to negotiate if your scores are below our required levels, with the expectation that because they are 'close enough' they will be accepted. It is important that you plan appropriately, well in advance, so that your English language test comes in good time and so that you have time to retake the test if necessary. We do not accept reasons of inconvenience or financial hardship for not submitting or retaking an English test.

International students

For EU and International students who need a visa, if unconditional entry scores are achieved we accept qualifications from several countries, as well as a range of international qualifications and tests.

If a Tier 4 entry visa is required then a SELT, such as UKVI IELTS may be needed. For this reason, we recommend all Tier 4 visa students to choose the UKVI IELTS Academic test as the test of first resort.

Last updated Oct 2019

About the School

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues.

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues. Read less
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